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Pee-Wee Harris on the Trail

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The night was bleak and cold. All through the melancholy, cheerless day, the first chill of autumn had been in the air. Toward evening the clouds had parted, showing a steel-colored sky in which the sun went down a great red ball, tinting the foliage across the river with a glow of crimson. A sun full of rich light but no heat.

The air was heavy with the pungent fragrance of burning leaves. The gutters along Main Street were full of these fluttering, red memorials of the good old summer-time.

But there were other signs that the melancholy days had come. Down at the Bridgeboro station was a congestion of trunks and other luggage bespeaking the end of the merry play season. And saddest of all, the windows of the stationery stores were filled with pencil-boxes and blank books and other horrible reminders of the opening of school.

Look where one would, these signs confronted the boys of Bridgeboro, and there was no escaping them. Even the hardware store had straps and tin lunch boxes now filling its windows, the same window where fishing rods and canoe paddles had lately been displayed.

Even the man who kept the shoe store had turned traitor and gathered up his display of sneaks and scout moccasins, and exhibited in their places a lot of school shoes. "Sensible footwear for the studen" he called them. Even the drug store where mosquito dope and ice cream sodas had been sold now displayed a basket full of small sponges for the sanitary cleansing of slates. The faithless wretch who kept this store had put a small sign on the basket reading, "For the classroom." One and all, the merchants of Main Street had gone over to the Board of Education and all signs pointed to school.

But the most pathetic sight to be witnessed on that sad, chill, autumn night, was the small boy in a threadbare gray sweater and shabby cap who stood gazing wistfully into the seductive windows of Pfiffel's Home Bakery. The sight of him standing there with his small nose plastered against the glass, looking with silent yearning upon the jelly rolls and icing cakes, was enough to arouse pity in the coldest heart.

Only the rear of this poor, hungry little fellow could be seen from the street, and if his face was pale and gaunt from privation and want, the hurrying pedestrians on their cheerful way to the movies were spared that pathetic sight.

All they saw was a shabby cap and an ill-fitting sweater which bulged in back as if something were being carried in the rear pocket. And there he stood, a poor little figure, heedless of the merry throngs that passed, his wistful gaze fixed upon a four-story chocolate cake, a sort of edible skyscraper, with a tiny dome of a glazed cherry upon the top of it. And of all the surging throng on Main Street that bleak, autumnal night, none noticed this poor fellow.

Yes, one. A lady sitting in a big blue automobile saw him. And her heart, tenderer than the jelly rolls in Pfiffel's window, went out to him. Perhaps she had a little boy of her own....


We shall pay particular attention to this sumptuous automobile which was such as to attract attention in modest Bridgeboro. For one thing it was of a rich shade of blue, whereas, the inhabitants of Bridgeboro being for the most part dead, their favorite color in autos was black.

The car, indeed, was the latest super six Hunkajunk touring model, a vision of grace and colorful beauty, set of with trimmings of shiny nickel. The Hunkajunk people had outdone themselves in this latest model and had produced "the car of a thousand delights." That seemed a good many, but that is the number they announced, and surely they must have known.

When one sat in the soft, spacious rear seat of the Hunkajunk touring model, one felt the sensation of sinking into a--what shall I say? One had a sort of sinking spell. You will pay particular attention to the luxurious rear seat of this car because it was destined to be the couch of a world hero, rivalling Cleopatra's famous barge which you will find drifting around in the upper grade history books.

This was the only super six Hunkajunk touring car in Bridgeboro and it belonged to the Bartletts who on this momentous night occupied its front seat.

"Do look at that poor little fellow,"quot; said Mrs. Bartlett to her husband. "Stop for just a second; never saw such a pathetic picture in my life!"

"Oh, what's the use stopping?" said Mr. Bartlett good-humoredly.

"Because I'm not going to the Lyric Theatre and have that poor little hungry urchin haunting me all through the show. I don't believe he's had anything to eat all day. Just see how he looks in that window, it's pathetic. Poor little fellow, he may be starving for all we know. I'm going to give him twenty-five cents; have you got the change?"

"You mean I'm going to give it to him?" laughed Mr. Bartlett, stopping the car.

"He's just eating the things with his eyes." said Mrs. Bartlett with womanly tenderness. "Look at that shabby sweater. Probably his father is a drunken wretch."

"We'll be late for the show," said Mr. Bartlett.

"I don't care anything about the show," his wife retorted. "Do you suppose I want to see The Bandit of Harrowing Highway or whatever it is? If we get there in time for the educational films, that's all I care about. You gave money for the starving children of France. Do you suppose I'm going to sit face to face with a little boy--starving?"

"I can't see his face," said Mr. Bartlett, "but he looks as if he had the Woolworth Building in his back pocket."

"Little boy," Mrs. Bartlett called in her sweetest tone, "here is some money for you. You go into that store and--gracious me, it's Walter Harris! What on earth are you doing here, Walter? I thought you were a poor little--I thought you were hungry."

The sturdy but diminutive form and the curly head and frowning countenance which stood confronting her were none other than those of Pee-wee Harris, B.S.A. (Boy of Special Appetite or Boy Scouts of America, whichever you please), and he stared her full in the face without shame....